Renovation for Bathrooms and Kitchens
How to spot a renovation cowboy
SHONKY renovation practices abound in the bathroom and kitchen renovation industry. Be wary – if you want a quality job, it pays to do your research first.
Many lone renovators claim they’re boutique. Unfortunately, all too often they’re merely shoddy fly-by-night operators who specialise in
- hidden costs
- poor materials
- and substandard workmanship
The problem isn’t confined to the small end of town either. Some bigger renovation firms are not always as up front as they seem. Often an array of hidden costs, or extra items, can arise once you have signed a contract with them.
Things often go wrong. Check out this article about Australian renovation catastrophes in the Sydney Morning Herald.
Questions to ask your renovation team
1. Will they let you inspect recent work, read testimonials, or visit a showroom?
Ideally a good renovator will have a showroom (visit our showroom). This lets you view products first-hand and develop ideas, allowing you to:
- Inspect products and materials closely
- Compare colour samples
- Test the mechanics of products
- Feel textures of tiles, timber, glass, electrical switches or metal
At the very least, your renovator should be able to provide feedback from recent clients. Written testimonials are good. If they come with credible before-and-after photographs, even better.
The true test is to ask whether they are willing to arrange a meeting with a recent client, along with a home inspection.
2. Is your renovator insured?
Reputable kitchen and bathroom renovation companies have the relevant insurances included in their professional cover. In most cases, you are going to need this for peace of mind, just to be on the safe side.
Why? Because standard home-and-contents insurance policies often fail to provide coverage for renovations. That’s the word according to Choice magazine, the flagship publication of the Australian Consumers’ Association.
Choice also warns that many insurance companies have exclusions hidden in their fine print. These loopholes let them escape paying out for water damage caused by renovation work. This is something well worth looking into before letting a fly-by-night operator turn himself loose on your plumbing.
3. Does the renovator offer warranties?
Any decent renovator will stand by the durability of their work. All should offer warranties on workmanship and manufacturers’ warranties on all products and materials.
Don’t take anyone’s word on warranties. A reputable company will be happy to provide copies of warranties. If they show any sign of hesitation or reluctance, treat it as a red flag.
4. Do they belong to an industry association?
This helps them stay abreast of new trends, such as cutting edge technical developments and legislative changes. It shows they are committed to complying with best-practice industry standards.
The websites of these organisations are also a great place for consumers to look for useful info. On the HIA’s HousingLocal site, there are all sorts of pamphlets, checklists and advice articles about renovation in general:
- “Renovating your bathroom? Tips and ideas to help you…”
- “Renovating your kitchen? Tips and ideas to help you…”
- “Your Renovation Wish List and Priorities”
5. How long have their tradespeople worked for them?
A low churn rate is a sign of a healthy and ongoing working relationship. In turn, this means quick response times for any snags that crop up during your renovation.
6. Are renovation company tradespeople licensed, and do they follow regulations?
A good project manager will contract only the finest licensed tradespeople – those with a proven reputation for taking pride in their workmanship. The project manager will oversee the entire job, ensuring at each step of the way that everything is done exactly by the book.
Some renovators are able to quote a lower price because of shortcuts taken on the job site. Their workers either deliberately ignore regulations and professional standards or – perhaps even worse – are completely ignorant of them.
Don’t be embarrassed about verifying trade licences. In most cases, a renovation company will understand and appreciate you taking extra efforts to weed out dodgy operators from their industry.
7. Can they tailor solutions to awkward spaces?
Do they have experience customising solutions to a tricky kitchen, bathroom or laundry?
Every room is slightly different. There are always adjustments of some sort to be made if everything is to fit exactly into the dimensions of the space available. Problems can include:
- Corners or voids in kitchen cupboards
- Difficult room layouts
Solutions for tiny and irregular nooks can include:
- Hidden laundry hampers
- Pull-out storage for corners or voids in kitchen cupboards
- Power points installed in custom-made cabinets
- Lighting in cabinetry
Do they offer such solutions?
8. Do they clean up after themselves?
A good renovator may quote a slightly higher price, but the cost will include every stage of the job – from demolition right through to final clean.
If further painting is required afterwards, they should be able to recommend a good painter.
Most importantly, ask questions such as:
- Do they prepare walls prior to tiling?
- Do they strip back white-set plaster and apply a primer in preparation for wall tiling?
Cowboys won’t do any of this.
9. Who are their suppliers?
Some renovators use prefabricated cabinetry and shower screens.
Cheap brands – often imported – are flimsy and won’t fit snugly into the exact dimensions of your kitchen, bathroom or laundry. All too often, the final result will be ill-fitting cabinets, bench-tops and shower screens.
These look cheap and nasty, have a tendency to rattle and wobble around, and in the long term they do not last the distance. At worst, they’re outright dangerous.
Instead, companies that use local suppliers and materials that can be produced and assembled locally – here in Western Australia – are often able to produce a superior-quality product, with excellent after-sales service.
Furthermore, a good renovator will insist their tradespeople use only quality products, such as:
- Caesarstone – the original quartz surface for luxurious stone benchtops, tiles, sinks and vanities
- Polytec – technologically advanced laminates, panels, doors, mirrors and benchtops from a privately-owned Australian company
- Reece – quality fixtures for bathrooms, kitchens and laundries, as used by expert plumbers.
(quality products we use)
10. How long will the job take?
You don’t want downtime.
Renovators who quote unbelievably low prices often skimp on payments down the line. In short, they often underpay their tradespeople.
Tradespeople may be tardy as a result, or even fail to turn up for work altogether if they get a more lucrative offer elsewhere.
In the meantime, your bathroom, kitchen or laundry is left looking like a disaster zone, possibly for weeks at a time.
- Home: Your family wants that bathroom, kitchen or laundry back in action as soon as possible. You don’t want to be hanging around waiting in laundromats and fast-food queues. Big families with teenagers don’t want to rush through a single shower each morning as though it’s boot camp. And if it comes to borrowing the bathrooms of neighbours and relatives, friendships will stretch to breaking point sooner than you’d imagine.
- Investment property: You could miss out on valuable rental income as prospective tenants look elsewhere.
Our recommendation? Ask renovators to set a definite time frame before they commence work.
11. Do quotes include everything, or are there hidden extras?
Some companies offer enticingly low quotes by leaving out the extra costs. They do not include what is necessary to complete the works at a standard required of a professional finish. They may omit:
- patching walls and holes, etc
An especially good example is waterproofing. It is an Australian Standard requirement to “waterproof all shower recesses.”
However, shifty renovators still insist on treating this Australian Standard as though it’s some sort of optional extra.
They let you know extra payments are required only after beginning work on the site – and that’s if you’re lucky. In the worst-case scenarios, you will discover problems only years later.
Talk to a Professional Kitchen or Bathroom Renovation Team
False economy is foolish. There’s no point paying half-price only to find out later that the job needs to be done all over again.
Pay once and get it done right. The true price of a quote should reflect everything being by the book.
And now – try these questions out on us!
Awkward questions? Yes, they can be. They might even result in a difficult silence or two. But in the long run, that’s easier to cope with than forking out thousands of dollars for a second-rate home renovation.
Want some practice asking these tough questions? Just give us a call on 0402 553 367.
We’re only too happy to answer them all.
We understand that you’re probably going to ring other kitchen and bathroom renovation companies as well. However, we’ve been in business since 2007 and are confident of our ability to match anyone on professionalism and quality of workmanship.
We manage your whole project, from start to finish, with no hidden costs.
As for the others? Well, just remember, warning bells should ring whenever a quoted price seems too good to be true. Dig a little deeper.